The book is has page after page of gorgeous eye candy. The pages are filled with an alchemy of mixed-media projects, snap shots of studios, and collections. The photographer, Thea Coughlin, is as enthralled with Sarah Ahearn Bellemar's work as I am and it shows in her gorgeous photos.
On my first read through, I was a little disappointed. I am familiar with the typical step-by-step or how-to art instruction books. This book is not that. And at first, I was skeptical that would get more out of reading the book then looking at pretty pictures. It was on my second go through, because lets face it, I was completely distracted by how beautiful her work is and so different my own, that I needed to go back and pay attention to the words, before I became truly inspired by what the books offers.
In the introduction, Sarah writes that she hopes the book is a starting point for the reader "...giving you a nudge to start or continue on your own creative path." Keep that in mind when as your read through the book and you will begin to understand the freedom this gives you.
A cool feature of the book is the end of each chapter contains pictures and stories from her creative friends. They vary from photos of the artists' sketchbooks to inspiration boards to collections. The contributions from the other artists adds to the book by widening the scope of ideas covered and by expanding on the topic in each chapter.
The book has several art prompts that will get you going if you can get past needing step-by-step instructions on how to create a specific project. This is where I was a little intimidated on my first read through. Once I got over that, I found myself inspired by the freedom. Allowed to incorporate ideas into my work and stye but not forced to conform to the teacher's. It was liberating and is I think what all teachers actually strive to do. Inspire and inform without raising a class full of minions who can only create carbon copies of the teacher's work.
The book is divided into five chapters. The first chapter gives an excellent and detailed breakdown of the supplies she uses. It gives the reader a tour of her studio and has four great categories: wet, dry, tools, and fun extras. The wet category is for things like paints and gel mediums. Dry is things like painting surfaces, pencils, and pastels. Tools is sketchbooks,scissors, and a bone folder. Fun extras (which is a great title) is things like stencils and stamps. Each item listed in a category has a detailed explanation on how she uses that particular item. She then moves on to talking about color and design.
Chapter two is about nourishing your creativity by surrounding creative space with inspiration. She shows little vignettes of her studio, inspiration board, and scrapbooks. Here, she demonstrates how she uses some of her favorite objects, dives into their meaning, and then creates a painting. Her process made me re-think my "stuff" laying around. What do I love? What naturally goes together? What does it mean to me? How can I use this "stuff" as a jumping off place to create a painting? I appreciate a book that gets me to grab my sketchbook to jot down ideas. Painted Pages certainly does that.
Chapter three is titled "Write it Out" and discusses her process for adding words and being inspired by poets and writers. She writes about a collaboration project with a writer that became a blog. The collaboration was liberating for both the artist and the writer. It allowed them to each grow as artists as well as gave them a vehicle for building an audience for the work they were doing. This reminded me of the the round robin I am currently collaborating in.
Chapter four is all about collections and collage. She covers incorporating photographs in her work, old book pages, and gives a technique for doing image transfers.
The final chapter she gives an overview of her painting process. It is a unique look, a "day in the life" glimpse. You are reading and seeing a painting being born. The process documents the painting's development over several stages and days. It illustrates the work and joy that goes into her art.
For me, the most useful part of the book was seeing how she uses a sketchbook as an important tool to further her work. It reinforces a lesson I keep learning which is how important it is to practice, create, and play without being overly worried about outcomes. The best part of the book though is the photos. I could spend several afternoons with a cup of tea just starting at its lovely pages.
I purchased a copy of Painted Pages with my own funds.